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OPLIN 4Cast #227: Lessons from Bobsled

Posted in 4cast

Last week, T-Mobile received quite a bit of attention in the technical media when they introduced “Bobsled,” an app for Facebook that allows Facebook friends to talk to one another through their Facebook pages. This week, it’s gone, temporarily suspended because of “design questions” from Facebook. While Bobsled’s fast up-and-down trajectory is noteworthy in itself, it also illustrates just how much Facebook has become a widespread communication medium, one which has the ability to handle all types of communication. The “between the lines” message for public libraries in this week’s 4cast: if you have a Facebook page, you should be gearing up now to handle direct patron-to-library communications through Facebook.

  • T-Mobile’s Bobsled brand offers VOIP calling for Facebook (eWeek/Michelle Maisto)  “First to launch under the Bobsled brand […] is a Facebook application that lets Facebook users—who don’t need to be T-Mobile subscribers—call their “friends” through Facebook’s chat window. The first VOIP (voice over IP) app to integrate into Facebook Chat, according to T-Mobile, users can place a call by clicking on a friend’s name. There are no screen names or numbers to remember. Should the friend be unavailable, users can leave a private audio message on the friend’s wall. And to receive a Bobsled call through Facebook, you don’t need to download anything.”
  • T-Mobile’s Bobsled is a free, Facebook-based, VoIP app (MobileCrunch/Devin Coldewey)  “So Bobsled is T-Mobile’s wedge in the video chat world, an answer to Facetime and Skype that’s carrier-operated and can easily be included on T-Mobile-branded devices like the G-Slate and G-series phones. I haven’t tested it out, but it’d be hard to mess this up. It looks like this first step was taken mainly because it was the easiest (just branding a licensed service), and the meat of the program will show up later.”
  • T-Mobile challenges Skype, Google with ‘Bobsled’ Facebook VOIP app (PC Magazine/Mark Hachman)  “In March, Facebook and Skype were said to be mulling a partnership that would tie Skype directly into the Facebook environment. Currently, users can call Facebook friends using Skype, a less integrated approach. ‘Last year we announced the integration of Facebook in Skype, so people can keep up to date with their Facebook friends through News Feed in Skype and even call and SMS their Facebook friends on any phone from Skype,’ Facebook said in March. ‘With regards to any further integration, we don’t comment on rumor and speculation and have nothing to announce at this time.'”
  • Bobsled goes off the tracks: T-Mobile suspends its Facebook voice service (mocoNews/Ingrid Lunden)  “Facebook and Skype announced a cooperative agreement last year […] but so far that has not extended into the golden, 500-million user opportunity of offering Skype voice and video calls from within Facebook. If Facebook did enter into such a deal, having another voice (and potentially video) service available on Facebook, like Bobsled, could confuse people—and moreover drive users to the competing service instead of the one that Facebook itself was actually promoting.”

Demand fact:
T-Mobile claims that 88% of Facebook users want voice chat built into Facebook.